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P.E.I. senator backs bill to put some reins on sports-betting advertising | CBC News



A senator from Prince Edward Island is throwing his support behind a bill that would require Ottawa to regulate sports-betting ads.

Percy Downe says the companies behind single-sport gambling sites and mobile apps should face restrictions on promotions similar to the ones in place for the alcohol and tobacco industries. 

“[For] most people watching these ads, they’re simply annoying. But for a number of people, they trigger addiction,” Downe told Island Morning host Mitch Cormier. 

“My particular concern is the impact on young people. These ads [feature] a lot of sports heroes, a lot of celebrities. Young people may be aspiring for that lifestyle, thinking, ‘Oh, I can make some easy money.’ 

“Are we expanding the number of gamblers, and are we growing the addiction problem in the future?” 

P.E.I. Sen. Percy Downe hopes a national framework to regulate gambling advertising will also help keep the sports betting companies honest with their profits. (Senate of Canada)

Sports betting has been legal in Canada since 2021, with few rules around how it can be advertised.

Sen. Marty Deacon, who represents Ontario’s Waterloo region as an Independent, introduced Bill S-269 to create a national framework to regulate sports betting advertising.

Deacon said sports betting ads have become “very attractive and addictive and sensational,” which draws in young and vulnerable people. 

She said the rules could include:

  • Limiting or banning celebrities and athletes from being in the ads,
  • Limiting the number of ads that can be played or shown in a given location, and/or
  • Not allowing broadcast ads at all.

The bill passed second reading in the Senate last week. It will eventually need to pass a third reading before going back to the House of Commons so that MPs can weigh in. 

Portrait of woman
Sen. Marty Deacon introduced Bill S-269 in 2023. It passed second reading in Canada’s Senate last week. (Twitter)

The attractiveness and ubiquity of sports betting ads can create problems for people susceptible to gambling addiction.

There’s also the user-friendly nature of the platforms themselves, which make it easy to place a bet on anything from which team will win the first faceoff in a given NHL game to which player will score the first goal — and people get to see the outcome of their bets more quickly than traditional gambling allows. 

‘Showing that you’re a good fan’

Matthew Young, a senior research associate with the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, said this is a particular problem for males aged 18-25. 

“Commercials… have really lent themselves to engaging and betting on your favourite team as a way of showing that you’re a good fan. There’s a certain level of masculinity associated with betting and sports,” Young told Island Morning‘s Laura Chapin. 

A number of promises were made about working on preventing addictions and money coming back to the communities. Let’s see what has actually happened ​​​​​​.— Senator Percy Downe

“When you have this huge amount of advertising coming in, that should be expected to increase gambling involvement, which should be expected to increase harm. Anything we can do to curtail or to reduce the amount of gambling advertising is in the public benefit.” 

Young suggests no one should spend more than one per cent of their monthly income on gambling. Betting becomes harmful when it negatively affects someone’s financial situation, relationships or health, he said. 

It’s this type of problem gambling that Downe hopes the Senate bill will help address, along with keeping the betting companies honest. 

The senator, who has for many years worked to curb overseas tax evasion, said many of the online gambling companies’ servers aren’t located in Canada, making them difficult to regulate.

He pointed out that when sports betting was legalized, “a number of promises were made about working on preventing addictions and money coming back to the communities.

“Let’s see what has actually happened two years later.”

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